• November 25, 2020
 Border Mother’s Day traditions are being disrupted by COVID-19. At least health officials hope so.

Border Mother’s Day traditions are being disrupted by COVID-19. At least health officials hope so.

CIUDAD JUAREZ — Chihuahua State Police officer Juan Antonio Martinez stands with a thermometer in hand, checking temperatures of people crossing the Paso del Norte Bridge.

As Mother’s Day approaches, he’s especially worried “because of their age, mothers are the most vulnerable and grandmother’s too,” he said.

Martinez is unable to social distance while holding the thermometer to the forehead of border crossers.

The temperature checks are applied to people coming from El Paso into Ciudad Juárez  after walking through a “sanitizing” station, where they are covered with a fine mist.

A Chihuahua State Traffic Police took the temperature of a motorist crossing the Bridge of the Americas in Ciudad Juáre on Wednesday, May 6, 2020. | Corrie Boudreaux / El Paso Matters

Health authorities in El Paso and Ciudad Juárez  are warning families with ties on both sides of the border to stay home this Mother’s Day to avoid spreading COVID-19. Before the pandemic, this year’s holiday was expected to be an even bigger celebration.

“We actually have a greater concern from a public health standpoint over Mother’s Day than we did Easter, because Mother’s Day in Mexico is occurring on the same day this coming Sunday,” El Paso Mayor Dee Margo said.

Mexico celebrates Mother’s Day on May 10 , which this year coincides on the same Sunday in May when the United States celebrates Mother’s Day. Large multigenerational celebrations are commonplace on the border and there is no bigger reason to celebrate than cherished mothers.

The effort to contain the coronavirus in this close-knit binational community could further unravel if those celebrations lead to more community spread as El Paso and Juárez  cope with rising cases and deaths.

“We know you want to see your mamas, but we need to wait. We need to get this behind us and then we can have big family gatherings,” Margo said.

Screening crossers in Ciudad Juárez

El Pasoan Victor Marquez does not think people will heed the warnings to avoid visiting Mexico on Mother’s Day. He had crossed the border briefly to buy some medication at a Juárez  pharmacy.

“We in the United States have so much liberty that people are irresponsible. They’re not responsible, especially when they come visit an elderly person,” Marquez said. He was worried about El Pasoans coming over to Juárez  and infecting their grandmothers on Mother’s Day.

“I wouldn’t recommend it,  no,” Marquez said. “But probably they are going to come.”

The border remains closed to all but “essential” crossers, such as people performing essential jobs or seeking health care.

Those doing health screenings at the international bridges in Juárez ask people with a temperature or symptoms whether they want to turn around and go back to El Paso, or they will be put in contact with the Chihuahua State Health authorities immediately and referred for medical care.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection refers U.S. citizens and legal residents to the Centers for Disease Control if they display symptoms of illness.

Mothers say this year is different

Mary Ramirez

Some don’t have to look far for reasons to be cautious about crossing back and forth.

“In my case we won’t have a celebration. Everyone will stay home and call,” El Paso resident Mary Ramirez said.

Her son will host a video call so everyone in Juárez  can wish her a happy Mother’s Day.

The 55-year old had planned to spend the day with her only daughter living in El Paso, but her 4-year-old grandson is suspected of having COVID-19, so that part of the family is self-isolating until they get the results of the test.

Silvia Arrieta, a 55-year old mother of three who lives in El Paso, usually travels to Juárez  for a large party organized by her family on the Mexican side. But this year her relatives didn’t even bring up the idea of a celebration. “Those in Juárez  will stay there. Those in El Paso here. It will be very different,” she said.

Estela Morales

Estela Morales, a mother in Ciudad Juárez  whose two sons live in El Paso, said they will remain separated on Mother’s Day.

“I’ll be home. There won’t be a party, just like my birthday in April,” Morales said.

Arturo Valenzuela, the Chihuahua State Health authority for Ciudad Juárez, has been warning people all week to avoid gatherings as the COVID-19 death toll reached 104. In El Paso, 23 COVID-19 deaths were reported as of Wednesday.

“Things are very delicate. The worst thing we can do is have a family gathering or relax even one day so that in 15 days you have an explosive outbreak in your family,” Valenzuela said during one of his daily virtual press conferences.

Ciudad Juárez cemeteries closed for the weekend

But both El Paso and Ciudad Juárez officials acknowledge they can do little more than urge people not to gather on Mother’s Day.

Ciudad Juárez  Mayor Héctor Armando Cabada Alvídrez also can offer a personal account. “No one is exempt,” he tweeted Wednesday night in announcing he’s among those who have tested positive for COVID-19 but does not have symptoms.

The need to honor mothers extends to those who are buried in Ciudad Juárez. The city government reminded people the three public cemeteries are closed as part of the COVID-19 restrictions.

The Panteón Municipal Chaveña in Ciudad Juárez announced a three-day closure for Mother’s Day weekend. Due to the threat of COVID-19, authorities hope to deter crowds from visiting the cemetery on Mother’s Day, typically one of its busier days . | Corrie Boudreaux / El Paso Matters

El Pasoans often pay their respects to mothers and grandmothers buried in Juárez  on Mother’s Day. Patricia Venegas, an El Paso resident, has been bringing flowers to her mother’s gravesite in San Rafael cemetery in Juárez  for the past 15 years.

“Even when violence was raging, we didn’t stop going. But now we can’t visit because of the coronavirus,” Venegas said.

INFO:  This story is a collaboration between La Verdad Juárez  and El Paso Matters. It is reported by Angela Kocherga for El Paso Matters and Martín Orquiz for La Verdad.

El Paso Matters

http://www.elpasomatters.org

This piece was originally posted on El Paso Matters. El Paso Matters is a member-supported nonpartisan media organization that uses journalism to expand civic capacity in our region. We inform and engage with people in El Paso, Ciudad Juarez and neighboring communities to create solutions-driven conversations about complex issues shaping our region. Founded in 2019 by journalist Robert Moore, El Paso Matters focuses on in-depth and investigative reporting about El Paso and the Paso del Norte region. El Paso Matters has a pending application for federal 501(c)3 status. While awaiting a ruling, we are a supporting organization to the El Paso Community Foundation and thus donations made to El Paso Matters are tax deductible.

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